Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success – Shane Snow Book Summary

Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success – Shane Snow | Free Book Summary

Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success – Shane Snow

Hacking your way to success.

Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators and Icons Accelerate Success

Smartcuts (smart shortcuts) are tools to shorten the path to success. There are several basic categories of smartcuts.

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First, you can find ways to shorten the job, cutting out unnecessary steps, people and processes. Once you’ve abridged the task at hand, you can use your energy more efficiently and maximize your effort. Finally, use your momentum to soar, gaining momentum so that you never stop.

Bigger And Better: Trading Up To Hack The Game

College students play a game called ‘Bigger and Better’, where they start trading small objects(like a toothpick or a snack bar) and eventually trade up to bigger stuff like a stereo in their hands.

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Playing the game and paying your dues is really a trap that results in you getting stuck. This is a new day, and the old paradigms don’t work anymore. We need to be college students continuously trading up, trading bigger and better. We need to jump sideways like cheetahs. We need to think like entrepreneurs. We need to hack the ladder.

Don’t Wait For A Mentor

Waiting for a mentor is like waiting for a charming prince. Pursue your goal, and if you happen to find a good mentor, cool. If not, cool.

Study the people who went before you. You can’t always get a mentor, but you can always learn from history.

Feedback: Fail Fast, Fail Often

Feedback doesn’t usually work, because people are too self-conscious to take it to heart. And if feedback makes us self-conscious, it can make us perform worse. Nevertheless, negative feedback can be immensely helpful, if we can manage to focus on the task rather than on ourselves. 


It’s hard to be objective about ourselves and our performance, but that’s exactly what we must do — put egos aside and accept the feedback. To learn from negative feedback, you’ve got to get comfortable with failure.

Leveraging Platforms

Instead of memorizing multiplication tables, kids should learn to use calculators. It turns out that hands-on learning makes us want to learn. 

Similarly, platforms help us master the basics much quicker. What we all need is to learn to use platforms. Platforms can be tools like calculators. They can also be environments, like schools. More innovation happens in urban areas because cities are platforms.

Waves: First Movers

First movers have a high failure rate. Early leaders do not. The first movers have to do all the heavy lifting, like getting the infrastructure set up. Early leaders can then come in and get a free ride. But sometimes the first wave is the best one, after all.

Sometimes hard work isn’t enough. Sometimes you have to get in the water and know which wave to ride.


Imagine you’re at a party where you don’t know anyone. If you’re outgoing, you might walk up to someone and start talking to them. If you’re an introvert, you might wait for someone to talk to you. Either of these tactics might lead to conversations with a couple of people.

Now imagine you have a friend at the party who is outgoing and talkative. Your friend introduces you to everyone she thinks you should know, and you end up talking to 12 different people.

Your friend has played the role of a superconnector.

Constant Momentum

Wealthy people get depressed once they no longer have anything to work toward. Astronauts have this problem as well. So it turns out that people in dead-end jobs and really successful people have more in common than you might guess: they both get depressed because they feel they aren’t progressing or moving forward. 


People need to feel progress and feel like they are moving forward. In fact, momentum is more important than quality, finances, or most anything else. And sometimes the perception of momentum is as good as the momentum itself.


To innovate is to do something new. Disruptive innovation is when something new changes the game so completely as to eliminate all the established players. Disruptive innovations usually save either time or money. These technologies are simplifiers. They make things easier. They make things simpler.

Simplification: Removing Decisions

Innovators have a talent for simplification, for zeroing in on what matters, and for focusing on the important challenges that they face. And innovative geniuses eliminate unimportant decisions from their lives. Steve Jobs, for example, always wore black turtlenecks and one style of jeans, so he didn’t have to waste time deciding what to wear. 


Having to make multiple small and inconsequential decisions can sap a person’s subsequent self-control and deplete their patience and willpower. Clearing out the clutter of minor decisions can improve the quality of big decisions.

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